Just because I thought you'd like it.

The mailman brought me a package the other day.  It was a gift.  Just because she thought I'd like it.  That is just very nice.  It's actually incredibly and absolutely wonderful that she would do that for me.  Just out of the blue.  It came at just the right time to cheer me up and give me the warmest glow of gratitude.

The Usnea lichen is the most wonderful lichen and it doesn't grow here.  So receiving a thickly padded envelope was just fantastic (not to forget the Bay leaves that have been flavoring my dinners - lovely:).  I have been holding it and touching it and suppressing the thought that I can't possibly use it.  So I did use a part of it, precisely because I felt so reluctant.  I decided to put one third of it into alcohol for a tincture and I actually managed to do that.  The tincture will take about 6 weeks and then I have a wonderful medicine.  Usnea tincture is antibiotic, antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, antiviral, and diuretic.  I just finished a dose of penicillin to get rid of a constant fever.  No high temperatures, but just a little bit that didn't go away and made me lethargic and disinterested in everything.  So now I have to suffer the consequences of killing off every friendly bacteria in my body.  So lots of yoghurt.  I look forward to trying the Usnea next time I need to treat an infection.  No nasty side effects.

I had been blaming my genes and winter for my low.  I am inordinately proud of being a quarter German because here most people are just Icelandic.  Icelanders can trace their ancestry back to about 800 A.D. and sometimes even a bit further, usually to Norwegian kings.  Of course, wouldn't you know it, I'm really a princess!  And we are all pretty much related.  If you take any two Icelanders, you'll usually find a common ancestor in the 8th or 9th generation.  My husband and I are really far apart, only with common ancestors in the 10th generation.

But all that aside.  Americans were of course, when I moved there, not very impressed since everyone there is originally from somewhere else.  And I do not think the British, that I met when I lived there, were too impressed either.  But I enjoy being a bit different from my countrymen.  And it is with a bit of pride that I point to my German genes as an explanation for my dislike of cold weather and intolerance for the dark.  My German grandmother was very brave to marry my grandfather and move to Iceland in the 1920's.  They met when my grandfather was studying electrical engineering and working in the Siemens factory in Berlin.

She was a factory girl and she was poor.  Her father had shot himself in front of his wife and three young children after gambling, probably not the family fortune, but pretty much all they had.  So my grandmother, despite protestations from her family, who naturally didn't want her living amongst eskimos in igloos, left Berlin and moved to Husavik, a small village where my great grandfather was the owner of the local store and fairly well off.  My grandparents soon moved to Reykjavik and had three children, my mother being the youngest.  My grandmother did get to travel back to Germany and her family (tante Lotta and onkel Walter) came to visit her.  My grandfather was a senior civil servant, so they were comfortable.  But she died of bone cancer at 59.  I was four, but I have a few precious memories of her.  She was beautiful, she loved pretty things, and at the same time she was wonderfully thrifty.  I like to think I got that from her too.  My mother has the same reaction to winter as I do, but my father, who was from a very remote area far north, never seemed to feel it.  Of course that makes sense, it's just survival.  I'd have withered away and died in the middle ages up there.

But back to the Usnea.  The rest will go to dyeing wool.  A part will be used for dyeing some Alpaca wool in a water bath and a third (and what is left of the water bath lichen) will be fermented in ammonia to see what comes out of it.  I'm really feeling an excitement for dyeing now.  So much so that I was inspired to order a book about lichen dyeing (called Lichen dyeing) that I've been wanting, but has been out of print for the longest time.  And just magically it was available on Amazon.

And then the casing for my duvet arrived from Germany.  And it looks really good.  I love it and really, really want to get a new duvet soon.  Which will not happen since my recent bout of inertia has been rather all-encompassing and I haven't touched the Eiderdown, so still 200 grams.  Only 800 to go.  But I'm back in the swing of things, thoroughly fed up with doing nothing.  And Cocobong - thank you :)


  1. The history and story of the moss is wonderful. I keep finding myself looking at Iceland more and more and thinking "Hm...I'd love to go there." I have the same experience with the English and Americans (the latter being ironic since NO white American is from America). It is due to America however that I have such a varied background - and part of that background is Norwegian. I don't do cold very well, but I don't mind the dark. And I've certainly eaten my share of weird Norwegian food so I think I could handle whatever Iceland would throw at me.

    Enjoy your tincture! And I turn to the Icelandic language website again to try and muddle through the pronounciations.

  2. So glad you got it. Was worried that customs might have kept it from getting to you...My Usnea oil infusion has been 'marinating' for over 6 weeks now. I'll soap it soon, 'tho it almost seems to good to soap. Wonderful post, Ambra..what a family story you have
    xox J

  3. Oya's daughter - Easy Jet is flying here now and with couch surfing and nice hostels it doesn't have to be too expensive :)
    Wow, Usnea oil infusion! I never even thought of that. I'm on it :)

  4. Un lugar muy interesante, definitivamente vale la pena leer, se suscribirá por las cosas nuevas para poder seguir todo lo bueno que sucede alrededor de este lugar maravilloso para leer la nueva información en este campo.

  5. L you are back. Everytime I think about using a harsh lab color for my soaps I see yours and am reminded of the simple beauty of nature. Nothing like it. You so inspire me to keep it natural

  6. Wonderful post Ambra! On this one I simply have to comment! I am Serbian and live in the Netherlands. I am studying in Utrecht a t Music Conservatory where almost half of the student body is international. Strangely enough, there is about 20+ Icelanders, mostly on classical voice department where I am as well. I have to say, out of all the other nations present in school, I like Icelanders the best! No, I LOVE them! Their sense of humor, straightforwardness and honesty is the closest that I can get to my friends back in Serbia. And the language, my God, like bird song! Amazing!

  7. Donna - I am often sorely tempted to use the bright and cheerful colors, I love what other soap makers do with them, swirls and glorious stuff, but then I think... uhm... it's not for me (for now... but who know where my curiosity might lead me).
    Ksenija- Oh, how funny. You have a very large proportion of my countrymen in your school, but then we tend to spread like the plague. I glad you like them/(us) and pleasantly surprised by how you describe our language. I've hear many descriptions, but none so complementary :)

  8. Ambra, I loved this post! I smiled at the part about you being a quarter German and that's why you don't like the cold and the dark!

    Have you used usnea tincture before? The first time I used it, I was an herbal apprentice and was told by my teacher to put only a few drops on the tongue to see if there would be any adverse reactions. If there is, take echinacea immediately. I think usnea tastes like brie cheese which I love. I seem to love all the herbs that most people can't stand. xo

    P.S. I'm German, too.

  9. Woman with wings - Thank you :) I haven't had a finished Usnea tincture, but I did dip a finger into it and lick it because I've read that it tastes awful. I guess it kind of does. But I've eaten it. I didn't want to waste any and saw a little bit that got left out so I tried it. It tasted like lichen. I've also read about adverse reaction to lichen. I know that the yellow and orange once should not be used internally and probably not externally. But thanks for the words of warning. It's always sensible to treat nature with a certain caution.


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